WEBSTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Karen Iglesia said Wegmans brand country potato bread is the only food her son Allen has eaten consistently for 12 years. She said he eats two loaves per day and there are 12 slices in each loaf.
“When I first tried potato bread, it tastes, I don’t know. It just tasted great,” said Allen, who lives in Webster, east of Rochester.
When Allen was 10 years old, he wouldn’t eat many different foods. Doctors kept telling Allen’s parents that he was just picky. One day, he couldn’t walk anymore and he had to be put in a wheelchair. Then his gums started bleeding severely. The doctors discovered Allen had scurvy.
“It’s a lack of vitamins, sailors used to get it, and I said, ‘How did he even get that?’ and they said his system was basically eating itself because he just wasn’t getting enough nutrients,” said Karen.
Allen had emergency surgery that day. Finally, he was diagnosed with a severe feeding disorder called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. This means he has a heightened sense of smell and taste which prevents him from eating anything hot or cold. He also can’t try new foods and went through feeding therapy for four years. He reverted back to eating just this brand of bread.
“They put a permanent G tube, a MIC-KEY tube, in his stomach and that’s basically because they said he’s, not picky, but his feeding disorder at this point, he’s 10, he’s far gone so we have to do something drastic. I said, ‘How permanent is this?’ They said for the rest of his life or at least until he learns to eat a number of things consistently,” Karen said.
Over the years, some of Allen’s preferred foods would change, but not the potato bread. He only eats three foods at any given time period. Currently, the other two foods in addition to the bread are vanilla frosted donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts and pizza from Pizza Hut, at room temperature.
He also gets nutrients through Pediasure. He eats three cans through his G tube four to five times per week.
When Wegmans called Karen last week and told her they’re going to stop carrying the bread because they’re not selling enough, she panicked. They said they’ll be carrying a new brand in its place, but knowing her son only eats this one brand, Karen reached out for help.
“We just put a post up online, it went viral I guess because before we knew it we had over 400 loaves of bread from Syracuse to Buffalo from Virginia to Binghamton. People were like, ‘We got bread, we’re gonna mail you bread,’” said Karen.
Some of this bread was bought from Eastway Wegmans where the family shops. The store manager, Amy Pasley, said people have been coming in in the past few days asking, “Where’s Allen’s bread,” and then buying tons of it to give to him. They’re calling themselves Allen’s Army.
“A lot of total strangers just came up and said we have our own child with challenges with eating and we understand and they went way out of their way and to see that kind of support from your community is very humbling,” said Allen’s dad, Gerard Iglesia.
Pasley said Eastway Wegmans is putting aside and freezing 100 loaves for Allen. They’re also working to help him find a new favorite bread. The family is meeting with the vice president of the bakery next week and he’ll give Allen samples of different potato bread.
“Our team knew we needed to help him, we needed to find a way to buy them time so Allen could find something else, another bread or something that could be a replacement for the potato bread,” she said.
Allen is grateful.
“These people are doing a great job, though, and I just want to thank them for collecting bread for me before it stops,” he said.